Before the rise of e-commerce, this would be the time of year when parents fought through the school supply aisle, list in hand, trying to ensure their child will have everything they need to be successful during the school year. Recently, however, consumers seem to be ditching the bustling, often unorganized school supply section at their local brick-and-mortar retailer in favor of shopping online from the comfort of their own homes.
This time of year marks the beginning of the busiest season for retailers. Fox Business calls this “make or break time,” as back-to-school shopping is only the beginning. With Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, retailers must ensure that they are prepared for the increase in customer traffic that is sure to come as students return to class through the holiday season.
Spending more, spending smarter
According to Independent Retailer contributor John Gregory, although back-to-school sales fell by several billion dollars last year, these figures are expected to increase again this season largely thanks to online platforms. These sales are forecasted to rise 16 percent this year, with the average online shopper spending an estimated $50.17 on his or her classroom items.
The source noted that these variations in back-to-school sales year over year signal the impact that online mobile shopping is having on the retail industry. Nowadays, even if customers do visit a physical retailer with their school supply list, they will likely check other vendors’ prices via their smartphone.
“It is widely believed that fluctuations in back-to-school spending are attributed to consumers shopping smarter with mobile, looking for the best deals, sometimes ‘showrooming’ in-store and limiting purchases to necessities,” Gregory wrote.
In addition to leveraging their smartphones while in physical retailer locations, research also shows that the vendors with the highest back-to-school sales are the ones boasting both an online and real-world presence. A rising number of consumers are favoring websites that allow them to choose their items from the online platform and pick them up at their local branch store. Gregory noted that the vendors that will do the best this back-to-school season are the ones that provide a seamless experience across their physical and online stores.
An overall push toward e-commerce
While some parents are still opting for traditional avenues for their back-to-school shopping, more are leveraging e-commerce retailers for specific items. An independent AOL study found that nearly half of all electronics purchases now take place online. And with the increased focus on connected devices in schools – including smartphones, laptops and tablets – this figure is sure to increase in the near future.
Overall, the majority of consumers – 68 percent – are planning to spend more online for back-to-school items this year. The shift toward e-commerce platforms for school supply needs is similar to the change occurring with holiday shopping: Customers are finding that online shopping provides more benefits.
“Consumers will shop online as long as it is convenient and offers competitive pricing, better service and a wider product selection,” Gregory wrote.
Online retailers: Be ready for the rush
However, if consumers do not receive the level of service they expect from an online vendor, there are plenty of other options for them to ensure that their child has every classroom item they need for the school year. To maintain a competitive edge during this all-important season, retailers have to be ready for the rush.
One of the best ways e-commerce vendors can prepare themselves for the uptick in consumer traffic is with performance testing. This critical resource will show retailers just how well their online platform will function as parents and students flood the site to purchase their back-to-school items.
Solutions like SOASTA’s mPulse can demonstrate just how much traffic a website is able to handle through analysis of the real-time gestures of consumers and the platform’s performance. By analyzing information gathered from actual users’ browsers, this system can provide invaluable insights for retailers, including page load times and conversion rates. Armed with this data, e-commerce vendors can ensure that their online stores are ready for the back-to-school rush and any necessary adjustments are made before the seasonal uptick in traffic.
SOASTA also provides a best-in-class mobile application testing system so that vendors can guarantee that every piece of their service footprint is prepared. The CloudTest solution offers real-time analytics and complex testing environments not available with any other solution.
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